Let’s discuss the Mets’ designated hitter options

Did that article title make you throw up a little? That’s understandable. Like it or not, however, the designated hitter (DH) is coming to the National League (NL) for the 2020 season. It will once again vanish into the ether in 2021 like some bad dream, but it will most certainly come back for good at some point. It may return as soon as the 2022 season after the next collective bargaining agreement is established. Despite the protestations of we purists, it just makes too much sense for both the owners (by route of pitcher health) and the players (by route of more money and longer careers) for it not to happen. It’s become a question of “when” rather than “if” over the last few years, and the COVID-19 pandemic has simply provided a trial period to get us used to it before the band-aid is eventually ripped off entirely.

Now that we’ve accepted the inevitable, let’s talk a little about how the DH will affect the Mets roster, however large that ends up being in 2020. The Mets’ defense in 2019 was…not good. They were 28th in DRS at -86. Small samples of defensive metrics should be taken with a grain of salt, but this is a clear indication that the team was shooting themselves in the very same foot they probably used to kick the ball all over the field.

As my colleague Chris Dial argued back in March, though, many of the Mets’ defensive woes can be attributed to an awkwardly constructed roster and players playing out of their optimal positions. Additionally, the potential returns of Yoenis Cespedes and Jed Lowrie make it that much tougher to get the best bats into the lineup without sacrificing defense. The DH will (mostly) help solve both of these problems by enabling Luis Rojas to maximize the offensive potential of his flawed roster with less of an impact on the team’s defensive performance.

This isn’t to say that Rojas doesn’t have a challenging task in actually leveraging the DH to maximize the team’s performance. If Cespedes shows even a hint of his former prowess with the bat, you have to put him into the lineup as often as possible, right? Given his injury history, the DH spot is perfect for him. That still doesn’t solve the defensive issues, though. Perhaps it would be best to plug Robinson Cano into the DH spot to free up second base for Jeff McNeil and third base for J.D. Davis (where he’s only below average rather than an outfield disaster). This would allow for Brandon Nimmo to transition from a poor defender in center field to a plus defender in left field, with Jake Marisnick‘s elite defense in center. If Amed Rosario‘s bat continues to develop, the DH would also allow for him to be kept in the lineup with someone like Luis Guillorme manning shortstop periodically.

There really are a multitude of options for Rojas given how this roster is constructed, particularly with an expanded roster in 2020, and I suspect we will see a plethora of mid-game defensive positional swaps during the upcoming season. As much as NL purists hate the idea of the DH, the Mets are among the teams that would benefit the most from the introduction of an additional bat to the lineup. Truth be told, I’ve personally started coming around to the idea of the DH in the senior circuit. Perhaps it’s because of the inevitability of it, or maybe it’s the aftereffect of watching what poor in-game management does to a team over the last few years. Either way, we’re about to witness the experiment in real-time whether we like it or not. At the very least, they’ll have somewhere to play Cano during the last forever years of his contract. That’s kind of a win, right?

Let’s end with a couple of questions for discussion:

  • What would be your ideal DH scenario for this team?
  • What historical Mets player would have benefited the most from the DH while he played for the team?

17 comments for “Let’s discuss the Mets’ designated hitter options

  1. John Fox
    May 24, 2020 at 10:55 am

    Rusty Staub in the latter part of his career would have been a good dh candidate

    • Rob
      May 24, 2020 at 4:34 pm

      I wish he would have stuck around another year to be apart of that championship.

  2. May 24, 2020 at 11:55 am

    As much as I despise the rule, the National League needs to adapt to a common ruling utilized everywhere but in my beloved National League.

  3. Bob P
    May 24, 2020 at 1:05 pm

    Dave Kingman comes to mind right away.

  4. TexasGusCC
    May 24, 2020 at 1:46 pm

    Rob, nice piece. If Cespedes can handle playing a position he was a plus defender at, he should be in left field; Nimmo in CF is good enough. The Mets are stronger with Nimmo in CF and Cano at DH than Cano at 2B and Marisnick anywhere near a bat – keeping Cespedes at DH. If Guillorme plays at second, he is still a better lineup option than Marisnick in CF just by keeping Cano off the field. JD Davis spent the winter working daily with Tim Teufel at playing third base well and in spring training Tuefel had complimented his progress. Davis deserves a chance. A quasi-platoon of Cano and Cespedes at DH can be a good idea with both being on the field occasionally.

    As for your other point about accepting the DH, I begrudgingly agree but I do like seeing Mets pitchers hit because there is always a chance of our pitcher doing something good since they are good compared to other pitchers. What do you think of the home team deciding if there will be a DH or not, giving them more of a home field advantage?

    • May 25, 2020 at 8:53 am

      Thanks, Gus! I agree with your points here, particularly regarding giving the most DH at bats to Cano and Cespedes. As much as I’ve railed against the DH in the past, it’ll be an asset for this team as presently constructed IMO. We’ll see how it all shakes out, I guess.

      I think giving the home team the option for the DH is an interesting variable to introduce, and it would allow the home team to play to their strengths at any given time of year (i.e. if your core DH is out with injury, your team is simply built for the NL game, etc.). I wonder if this would lead to some teams always choosing to play a certain way, though, and sort of building a tradition. Like you know you’re in for no DH every time you head to St. Louis for instance. Interesting thought!

  5. May 24, 2020 at 2:05 pm

    Historical maybe HOJO his defense was bad everywhere or David Wright after 2015. Ces or Davis are perfect for the dh now.

  6. Eraff
    May 24, 2020 at 5:30 pm

    The Idea that the Non-Dh option still includes that “Fan Favorite” “Does He Pinch him for Him or Not?”….. C’Mon…all the drama of that decision has been gone from the Game for a long time. So, maybe you see a PH in the 4th inning….when a Guy isn’t even getting bombed…Hardly the traditional situation that you may be yearning for. Otherwise, it’s a non decision—Get through 6 innings and you get a Pinch hitter on every subsequent Pitcher-Hitter ab…it’;s hardly a Decision…you go to the bathroom or the fridge as soon as the Pitcher’s ab comes up. The strategy runs on schedule, like the buses.

    Stop it with Pitchers Hitting…or prove to somebody that it’s still a big moment of decision—or do you really just want to see Bad Hitters Hit???…what’s the deal???

    • May 25, 2020 at 9:00 am

      Bob Nightengale made a similar argument in USA Today last week. Essentially, the game that we don’t want to see go away with the DH is basically gone already. Among the points you made, he also noted that bunting is a lost art, as is the hit and run. It’s hard to argue with at this point, honestly.

      • Eraff
        May 27, 2020 at 2:39 pm

        I believe that all of the calls to bring “activity” back to the game can be solved without the tinkering that’s going on—The Shift… Walks and Strikeouts….. the missing elements of Speed and Small Ball…

        Expand and Enforce the Strike Zone!!!!!

        That takes both the Pitcher and The Hitter out of the very narrow box that they’re swinging in and pitching to. It makes swinging and contact much more important. It takes the Hitters and Their Swings out of a very limited Georgraphy—they will need to be more Defensive. The “Max Swing in the same Place” will be Gone–YAY!!!! Pitching Craft will return. Once Again, we will have Home Run Hitters and Hitters.

        • May 27, 2020 at 6:33 pm

          My opinion is the rule book strike zone is being called better than ever, to the best of human ability. It’s no longer anything remotely like Tom Glavine days, where you couldn’t get a strike called above the belt. Umpires are ready, willing and able to call the high strikes. Pitchers aren’t willing to throw that pitch as much as they should.

          Expanding the strike zone might be a solution.

          You could outlaw batting gloves. Or make it an automatic strike if you adjust your batting gloves once you step into the box for the first time. Or an automatic ball if a pitcher starts walking around the mound in the middle of an AB. It’s tough to regulate time wasting until we say that both pitchers and batters are responsible for the delays we see now. A batter should be able to gather himself – but does he have to do it after every pitch? A pitcher should be able to pitch at the tempo he’s comfortable with but does every hurler have to do a Steve Trachsel imitation?

          I’m in favor of rules that eliminate wasted time. I’m not in favor of rules to to bring back a certain style of play.

          • Eraff
            May 30, 2020 at 4:08 pm

            Calling the Strike Zone as it has been called has made a tremendous determination about play….and I don’t agree that it’s consistently called to rule. I do believe it’s time for technology on balls and strikes—I don’t know if tech is ready.

            Tweaking rules to gain desired play outcomes is nothing new, and it shouldn’t be seen as undesireable as a general rule. I believe Baseball will need to emphasis A More Active Game, if not a faster game, time wise…I’d prefer both!

            Larger Strike Zones, Automated Strike Zone, Some Degree of Timers on Pitchers and Hitters. I’d like to see them restrict pitching staffs rather than legislate in-game restrictions on use.

            One Other Thing…. Replay. Let’s go back to getting a Manager Jumping Ugly out of the Dugout. No More Checking…no more video review–that will kill lot’s of bad birds with one stone.

  7. Joe Vasile
    May 25, 2020 at 8:19 am

    For a hypothetical 2020 season, I would definitely say a healthy Yoenis Cespedes is the biggest beneficiary on the Mets at DH. If he is not healthy, I like the idea of Dominic Smith against righties and JD Davis against lefties. Smith is obviously without a position, but I think deserves a shot to try to be the guy mostly every day, and Davis even with improved defense is still too much of a liability in the field.

    Historically I have to agree with those who have been saying Dave Kingman. But for the sake of changing things up, I’ll say Lucas Duda. He was much less of a liability at first base than he was in the outfield, but he always profiled as that DH type.

    • May 25, 2020 at 9:05 am

      Yeah I think long term Mets roster-wise, assuming the DH arrives to stay in 2022, the biggest beneficiary in terms of playing time is going to be Dominic Smith. Outside of first base, he’s basically position-less. It may be the best thing to happen for his career barring a trade.

    • TexasGusCC
      May 25, 2020 at 11:42 am

      Joe, it was Duda that said “DH is a position too” when they asked him what position he’d like to play with Ike Davis at first base. Well pegged, Joe.

  8. Metsense
    May 25, 2020 at 5:25 pm

    If Cespedes is healthy then he should play left field, McNeil at third base and JD Davis should be the DH because he is the worst defender of the three. All three can hit no matter what hand the pitcher throws from. Cespedes career split is 825/827, McNeil 2019 split was 950/825 and JD Davis 2019 split was 886/913.

  9. Name
    May 25, 2020 at 8:24 pm

    I can only wish that our manager will be bold enough to say fuck the DH, I’m still gonna play by the real rules and have the pitcher hit.

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